The following has been attributed to Reverend Denis Edward O’Brian, but he says the author is unknown. I originally received it via the Good Clean Fun mailing list of Tom Ellsworth.
WHAT IS A VETERAN?
Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye. Others may carry the evidence inside them, a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg – or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul’s ally forged in the refinery of adversity.
Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem. You can’t tell a vet just by looking. What is a vet?
A vet is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn’t run out of fuel.
A vet is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is overshadowed by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th Parallel.
A vet is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.
A vet is the POW who went away one person and came back another – or didn’t come back at all.
A vet is the drill instructor who has never seen combat – but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account punks and gang members into marines, airmen, sailors, soldiers and coast guardsmen, and teaching them to watch each other’s backs.
A vet is the parade-riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.
A vet is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.
A vet is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean’s sunless deep.
A vet is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket – palsied now and aggravatingly slow – who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.
A vet is an ordinary and yet extraordinary human being, a person who offered some of his life’s most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.
A vet is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more that the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.
So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say, “Thank You.” That’s all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.
Those two little words mean a lot … “THANK YOU”.
The following Veteran’s Day speech from (then) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was delivered in 2001 and can be heard here.
Eighty-three (88 now) years ago, an armistice was signed between the Allies and the Central Powers. As the guns of both the victors and the vanquished fell silent, World War I — “The War to End All Wars” — slipped into history.
For the next twenty years, “Armistice Day” was celebrated with parades and speeches, simple ceremonies and sacred observances. For many years, buglers played “Taps” at 11 o’clock at the main intersections of towns across America or the village greens — I was one of them. And for two minutes, all the traffic and daily transactions ceased as citizens stopped to honor those who had fallen in the defense of liberty.
Today, we celebrate “Veterans Day,” but while the name has changed, its meaning and purpose remain the same. It is a day to honor and to remember those who died and those we are blessed to still have with us.
Their collective experience — from the gas-filled trenches of World War I to the deserts of the Persian Gulf — covers much of the turmoil and change of the 20th century. Their stories are the story of our history, for America rose to greatness on their shoulders.
But Veterans Day is also a day to honor and to recognize not just the Greatest Generation, but the latest generation — those who today wear the uniform and bear the responsibility for defending freedom and protecting our American way of life. And while this is true even when the country is at peace, it is particularly so when America is — as it is now — at war.
Like the thousands of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who went before, you have dedicated yourselves to the strength and survival of our nation, and willingly placed yourselves in danger to secure peace and freedom. In so doing, you have assumed the highest responsibility of citizenship, and your country is grateful. Never forget that you serve in the finest military in the greatest nation on Earth, a military and a nation dedicated not to oppression, but to freedom.
Today we celebrate and salute the men and women who have served so gallantly over the decades to keep us free. We offer them our love, our thanks and our promise that we will never forget their valor or their sacrifice.
We offer the same to you, as you voluntarily put your lives atrisk so that we may all live in freedom.
God bless you and God bless America.
Donald H. Rumsfeld
♥ Thank you, veterans!!!♥